Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Goalie nods: Philly sticks with Neuvirth in second of back-to-back

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Desperate for points as they fight for a playoff spot, the Flyers will once again roll with Michal Neuvirth when they take on the Oilers in Edmonton tonight.

Last night, Neuvirth was in for 3-1 loss in Calgary. Though he wasn’t overly busy — just 22 shots faced — he’s still a bit of a surprise starter, given Steve Mason hasn’t played in a week and has a .918 save percentage over his last five appearances.

Neuvirth, though, is clearly the more in-form ‘tender. He’s 3-2-1 in his last six outings, boasting a 1.34 GAA and .940 save percentage.

For the Oilers, no questions over who starts in goal. Cam Talbot gets his NHL-leading 52nd nod of the year.

Elsewhere…

Mike Condon returns to the Ottawa net after Craig Anderson started the last two. The host Devils will counter with Cory Schneider, who’s coming off a 28-save win over the Avalanche on Tuesday.

— After Antti Raanta started on Monday, Henrik Lundqvist returns to the Rangers net for a rivalry game against the Isles. Lundqvist will face Thomas Greiss, who has host three of his last five.

Ondrej Pavelec‘s still out injured, so Connor Hellebuyck makes another start for the Jets. He’ll be up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who last played on Saturday in a loss to the Coyotes.

— Jeremy Smith made his NHL debut for the Avs on Tuesday, so Calvin Pickard draws back in tonight in Buffalo. Robin Lehner, coming off a banner 39-save win over his former Ottawa team earlier this week, gets another start.

— It’s Jacob Markstrom versus Jake Allen as the Canucks take on the Blues in St. Louis.

— Minnesota will give Darcy Kuemper his second start in five games when it hosts Dallas. The Stars will counter with Kari Lehtonen, after Antti Niemi lost to the Jets on Tuesday.

Mike Smith, fresh off a 36-save shutout of the Flames on Monday, gets right back in for the Coyotes, who are in L.A. The Kings are going with Peter Budaj.

Coyotes look like they’ll healthy scratch McGinn, he of the $10M contract

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Arizona might send a message to veteran forward Jamie McGinn tonight.

McGinn, who has eight goals and 14 points through 50 games this season, seems primed to be a healthy scratch when the Coyotes take on the Kings in L.A., per the Arizona Republic.

Signed to a three-year, $10 million deal last summer, McGinn was trumpeted by GM John Chayka as “a big, physical, power forward who scores goals and plays a gritty style,” adding that the 28-year-old would be “a great addition to our roster.” It was one of Chayka’s first big splashes in free agency.

But McGinn hasn’t lived up to the billing.

He has just two goals in his last 26 games, and hasn’t found the back of the net since Jan. 19. Given he’s the club’s second highest-paid forward — only captain Shane Doan makes more — it’s obvious Arizona expects more.

Flames sign Bartkowski to two-year deal

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Just one day after bringing him in on a professional tryout, the Flames have inked veteran d-man Matt Bartkowski to a two-year, two-way deal.

Financial terms weren’t immediately disclosed.

Bartkowski, 28, has spent all of this season with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring 10 points in 34 games. His last NHL action came in ’15-16, when he scored 18 points in 80 games with Vancouver.

And that’s where the familiarity angle comes into play.

Though he was oft criticized for his play last season, Bartkowski did log career highs across the board with the Canucks — under the watchful eye of then-assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, who’s now the head man in Calgary.

“He’s a great skater, a fantastic skater,” Gulutzan said, per the Calgary Herald. “In Vancouver we used him a bit on the penalty kill not much on the power play. He’s a guy that can move and is very mobile. But my role in it … certainly knowing the player and knowing the type of person he is, I vouched for that.”

There are a few facets to this signing. The first is that Bartkowski gives the Flames a defenseman to expose in this June’s expansion draft.

The second? He might end up being more than just a depth signing.

Eric Francis of the Calgary Herald wrote the Flames “are devoid of a quality No. 4 defenseman,” adding “there’s simply no semblance of defensive depth on a blue line spearheaded by studs Dougie Hamilton, [Mark] Giordano and [T.J.] Brodie. After that, the pickins are slim.”

The Flames are back in action Saturday, when they take on the Canucks in Vancouver. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll give Bartkowski a look against his former club.

On Nelson’s hockey journey, from Northern Minnesota to Brooklyn

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On Sunday, the NBC Sports Group will celebrate Hockey Day in America with an NHL quadrupleheader while featuring grassroots hockey stories from across the country.

Today, we look at the path Islanders forward Brock Nelson took from Warroad, Minnesota.

A big reason for the Isles’ recent turnaround?

The play of Brock Nelson.

The 25-year-old forward has three goals and six points in seven games this month, helping New York climb to within three points of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

On the year, Nelson has 13 goals and 31 points through 55 games, and is on pace to set a career high in scoring.

He’s emerged as a vitally important player in Brooklyn. Which is an awfully long way from where he came from — a tiny town in Northern Minnesota.

Warroad, with approximate population of 2,000, is renowned for pumping out hockey talent. Caps forward T.J. Oshie starred for Warroad HS (as we wrote about yesterday) prior to launching his NHL career, and the city is also famous for the Christian clan — Bill, Dave, Roger and Gordon, who all represented the U.S. at various Winter Olympics.

The Christians are royalty in Warroad, and Nelson’s part of that. He was born and raised there, starring at the local high school like Oshie did years prior.

And then there’s the Christian family lineage.

Bill, Nelson’s grandfather, captured Olympic gold in ’60.

Dave, his uncle, was on the Miracle on Ice team at Lake Placid in ’80.

More on those ties, from SI:

Looking back now, the benefits of Brock’s bloodlines are easy to spot. He golfs over the summer with Dave, who led the U.S. in assists at Lake Placid and eventually played 1,009 NHL games.

As a child, Bill would pull him from school during lunchtime to skate at the local rink. Today, an Islanders game rarely passes without Bill texting beforehand to wish Brock good luck, or afterward to offer some advice.

“A lot of people don’t really know the history, the hockey history,” Brock says. “Some do back home. Some don’t. It’s hit or miss.”

As mentioned above, Warroad and its rich hockey history will be profiled as part of Sunday’s broadcast. It’s part of a massive slate that begins with Oshie and the Caps taking on the Rangers (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), followed by Detroit-Pittsburgh (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

From there, Hockey Day in America shifts to NBCSN. First, it’s Chicago-Buffalo (6 p.m. ET) followed by Boston-San Jose (8:30 p.m. ET).

Jets lose another d-man — Enstrom out 2-3 weeks after surgery

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Winnipeg’s blueline was dealt another blow on Thursday, as the club announced Tobias Enstrom would miss the next 2-3 weeks following surgery to correct a lower-body injury.

Enstrom played just 1:22 in a loss to Tampa Bay over the weekend, then missed Tuesday’s 5-2 win against Dallas.

The 32-year-old plays a big role for the Jets — averaging 22:19 TOI through 55 games this year — so the loss will hurt. And it hurts even more given the club won’t have rearguard Tyler Myers for the foreseeable future. Myers, who hasn’t played since Nov. 11, is out 6-8 weeks after also undergoing surgery for a lower-body ailment.

With those two out, Jets head coach Paul Maurice iced a defense of Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Paul Postma, Ben Chiarot and Mark Stuart in the win over the Stars. Byfuglien and Trouba were the heavy lifters — receiving 24:21 and 26:01 of ice time, respectively — and there’s a good chance that trend will continue with Enstrom on the shelf.

If Enstrom is out two weeks, that puts his return at March 2 — meaning he’d miss the next five games. If the recovery goes three weeks, Enstrom could miss as many as nine games.

Winnipeg heads into tonight’s action sitting five points back of Calgary for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.